Synopsis of 3×04: In ‘Be The Penny,’ left in astral projection without a body to return to, Penny wanders through everyone else’s lives as an invisible ghost. Eliot ventures back to Earth, with Fen and Fray, through peculiar danger.


Here’s the skinny:

  • Penny died but is now stuck in an astral projection form. He’s invisible to everyone with no way of interacting with the physical plane until he learns how to become items with the help of another traveler in a similar situation. To escape almost infinite servitude under the Order of the Library, Penny uses his newfound “become” ability to burn his body. He’ll now be stuck in astral projection form for the foreseeable future.
  • After searching for the key in buried dorms on Brakebills’ campus, Quentin and Julia find the second key, the “truth” key, in Irene McAllister’s home instead.
  • Eliot, Fen, and Fray return to Earth after a trip through the deteriorated “Neitherlands.”
  • Through Eliot’s nonchalant discovery, we learn that the “truth” key allows its holder to see hidden things, including Penny.

Death makes you needy.

Penny’s death has less of an impact than he would’ve appreciated on anyone other than Kady. Even she admits that no one, including herself, really knew him. No one seems to care much about his absence and he, comically, suffers through it. Quentin even laughs wholeheartedly at the news of Penny’s death, chalk it up to shock. Penny also becomes somewhat of our transition tool from one scene to another.

Nothing says vacation like cannibals.

Eliot, Fen, and Fray come across a pair of deceivingly generous cannibals in the “Neitherlands”.

No magic? Well, at least there’s drugs.

Kady attempts to cope with Penny’s death through drug injections. It fails and Julia comes to her rescue just in time to force a magical stomach pumping.

From one astral projection to another.

Penny meets Hymen (funny name, we know), another “dead” traveler caught in astral projection. Like Penny, Hymen found himself stuck, but unlike Penny, his “death” was much less noble. Hymen was a prominent peeper, lecherous lurker, and vile voyeur during his time at Brakebills. However, as he says, the joke is really on the person who hid his body since now his life is “all peeping, all the time” [insert high five here]. Doesn’t it just make your skin crawl, just a little bit?

Hymen’s explanation of Quentin and Julia’s relationship is so on point. They’re actually his favorite pairing. He watches them as if he’s just another one of us viewers. He also finds a “heterosexual white male” very relatable, I wonder why, although I appreciate the tongue-in-cheek appraisal of Hollywood casting choices.

It was traumatic, no duh.

A member of the order, the library’s workers, visits Kady to find Penny. He explains that Penny could become a vengeful ghost if his soul remains on Earth after his metaphysical tether snaps from his body.

The library keeps a “corpse-eater” on the payroll for matters such as this. The corpse eater will arrive at sundown. Kady discusses her options with Alice and Alice sides with the library, although Kady remains unconvinced.

Ghosting, Patrick Swayze style.

Hymen teaches Penny how to interact with the physical dimension. Unlike in Patrick Swayze’s Ghost, astral projections can not push objects in the physical dimension. Penny learns how to possess objects and “be” them. Takes a little practice, but he picks it up at some point.

Of course, it’s never that simple. Penny possesses the Margolem, Margo’s doppelganger made of clay. The result is slightly disturbing, but Quentin’s response is even more so. The Margolem walks into the middle of the Brakebills crew, groaning and making disconcerting attempts to speak. For once, Quentin steps up to the plate and inhumanely beats it with a pool stick. Talk about some pent-up aggression.

Ok Henry, let’s get it!

Dean Fogg, aka Henry the drunk sage, leads Quentin and Julia to a secret dorm buried on Brakebills’ campus. Once they visit, they come across the spirit of Lance Morrison, a friend of Rupert Chatwin’s who he gave the key to. Penny follows them, planning to coerce the spirit into revealing Penny’s existence to the others.

Lance Morrison’s father appears and… a few mentions of familial scandal later, he kills the spirit before going for Quentin and Julia. Penny beats the spirit into submission and commands him to say his name. The spirit can’t believe “Penny” is a real name, so he refuses to say it. Quentin and Julia leave after their views of a weird conversation cause them to believe they’ve broken the ghost’s death loop.

Everyone has daddy issues.

Eliot tries to use the illusion key to escape the cannibals. It fails and only manages to create an illusional visage of his father, an extreme homophobe full of hateful comments.

In and Out.

Fogg, Quentin, and Julia meet with Irene McAllister. Apparently, Irene has some form of latent magic in her household. Think Beauty and the Beast household items moving of their own accord.

While Quentin distracts Irene with pathetic parlor tricks, Julia searches Irene’s home for the second key with a locator spell. She finds the key and we get a view of invisible, creepy robed women watching her as she does. I’m guessing these are fairies considering their similarities to the fairies we’ve seen thus far.

Time’s up.

Kady and Julia consider whether to trap Penny in astral limbo or send him to the underworld with the corpse eater’s help. Before they have a chance to retrieve the corpse eater, Penny becomes the candle and tips it over to burn his body indefinitely.

Oh, Hi Penny.

Dean Fogg is just becoming a day drinker, especially since he has now lost his position as Dean of Brakebills. Eliot, Fen, and Fray come charging in through the physical house’s front door in escape from the cannibals. Eliot learned that the key creates illusions of what you fear most, hence Eliot’s illusion of his father. But the best form of catharsis is feeding your homophobic illusion of a father to bloodthirsty cannibals and enjoying the screams of anguish. Oh, and yeah. Eliot sees Penny when he holds the “truth” key.

 Another fine episode if I do say so myself. Penny’s sarcastic commentary is possibly more fitting of this episode than of any others. Also, you gotta love the meta.

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